Meet the unemployed: "You're not what we're looking for…"

Meet the unemployed: "You're not what we're looking for…" July 14, 2011

“I am an unemployed Iraq war veteran that hasn’t had steady work since I was Honorably discharged at the end of 2009. I have a BS in International Relations, an active security clearance, and I speak four languages. I am currently enrolled in an MBA program in hopes of bettering myself, and my situation, but being a college student doesn’t pay the bills, and I have been looking for full time employment for nearly 2 years.

I have led men in combat, but my last job was a temporary cashier position in the women’s department at Nordstrom’s—I led the team in sales, but they still didn’t keep me after the holidays. My concentration is in Finance, but I am looking for jobs in virtually any field. I don’t get many interviews, but when I do, I get a lot of handshakes and a ‘Thank you for your service, but you’re not what we’re looking for.’

— Job seeker quoted here.


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14 responses to “Meet the unemployed: "You're not what we're looking for…"”

  1. I in no way want to minimize this man’s struggles. No way. I just want to share that I switched careers in midlife – to teaching special education students. There is a crying need for professionals willing and called to working with children who struggle to learn, who might have behavior problems, cognitive disabilities. While teachers do not get rich, they do make a living wage, coupled with parttime jobs, summer work etc. Just a thought. There are even programs that recruit veterans to become teachers.

  2. It’s really too bad for the unemployed. Some may be looking in the wrong places, but it seems that until the economy strengthens , there just won’t be enough jobs to go around.

    I think those of us who have some money are almost obligated to spend what we prudently can so as to create demand for workers. And maybe people who can afford to retire should do so, so others can keep working.

  3. If you are in your 50’s it’s even worse. Too young to retire and too old to get hired.

    The unemployment is far worse than the politicians or the number crunchers will tell you. There is an entire invisible sub-class of people who have simply given up and manage to get by with the help of family, odd jobs, etc. They are not reflected in the unemployment or govt. assistance numbers anywhere. When the people who support them also start losing their jobs the problem will explode.

  4. Some additional observations:

    –Some folks out there in “reality-land” turn away work. One of my close relatives is a 33 year old male nurse/paramedic with a BSN. He has been heavily recruited — often turning down a job a week. He just changed jobs for the third time in two years — this time moving to a major University Hospital’s Emergency Room where he has been told he is being groomed for a supervisor’s position.

    –Anyone who works in community colleges knows that when the economy “goes south,” community college enrollments skyrocket. One of our smaller schools here in the Midwest just reported that they are expecting 3,800 head-count for Fall 2011 term — that is a 100% increase since a 1,900 head-count they reported in Fall 1998. In Fall 2010, they had 12 NEW openings for full-time staff — I expect in the next few weeks, they will post another 6-8 full time NEW openings for school year 2011-12.

    –One final remark. Do not look at the “global” unemployment — look at the break-out by demographics. Folks with any sort of graduate degree only have a 4.0% unemployment rate. Folks who are high-school drop-outs, particularly African-American males, have an unemployment rate exceeding 40%.

  5. The un-employment levels between men and women is significant with many more men unemployed . Aren’t women easier for employers to ‘handle’ like the vet in Nordstrom’s being laid off? I work with men in recovery and employers don’t need their muscle and fear their testosterone.

  6. I read all of these stories, and I can go through some of them individually and point to unwise decisions these individuals have made–and sometimes continue to make. But the bottom line is that even if every one of these unemployed people were wise, saintly, and expensively educated, the economy right now could not provide jobs for all of them. Recent government intervention in the market has clearly not been aimed at generating private-sector jobs; a good case can be made, in fact, that many government policies today discourage the creation of private-sector jobs and thus drag out this difficult recession.

    The Church teaches that “government authorities [ought] to seek conditions that encourage the development of individual capacities of initiative, autonomy and personal responsibility in citizens, avoiding any interference which would unduly condition business forces.” Most of the people in these stories very clearly have such capacities, but they need a framework in which to exercise them, and that is not available at the moment.

  7. As one who has been on the hiring end for some years now, firstly, my heart goes out to all, especially, as momor pointed out, that “too young to retire, too old to hire” group. I can tell you hands down that after 50, it really does becomes .more difficult (albeit not impossible), to get hired for most jobs. Yes it’s illegal, “technically”, but there are many “legal” ways to pass over this age group.

    Here’s my best advice. Find 3-5 companies (preferably 3) that you would LOVE to work for, either because they treat employees great or you are passionate about what they do, and would love to be a part of the team. After that, here’s the key. JUST GET YOURSELF IN THE DOOR, DO ANYTHING, EVEN IF ITS SWEEPING THE FLOOR OR ANSWERING PHONES.

    Once you have your 3 or so “target” companies, stay focused, check their job boards (on the company website) daily, and persist without being a pest (enough to know you are passionate but don’t cross over to the “desperate” line). Do anything to find a contact who could maybe put a good word in for you. LinkedIn is a good way to make this potential connection, but even without it, there’s real hope if you stay focused. The most important thing, is don’t give up. Good companies are good because they hire good people. FWI, most hires these days, and especially jobs for the 50 plus group, usually happen because of a personal referral. This strategy only works if you are really willing to take ANY job, regardless of the fact that it’s in the mail room and you have a Ph.D. Your standard line should be, I just love the company, and willing to do what ever it takes to build a career with you (DO YOUR HOMEWORK, because they are going to want to know WHY you love them). On that note, companies are esentially “people”, and can easily be flattered. Also, don’t underestimate the value of good company benefits, even if the pay sucks. Bottom line, if you are passionate about a company, a person of integrity, and willing to work hard, guess what? Most companies promote from within, and you are now on the fast track to the job that you, unlike the thousands of others who “resume dumped” were willing to work for from the ground up.

    The next advice AFTER you get that interview is to send a THANK YOU, one of the biggest kept secrects in the job hiring world, often a deal breaker when it comes to finalists. Rule of thumb, first phone interview, send a short to the point email ASAP. After that, send a hand written thank you, which sadly to say, is almost a lost art. If people really knew how much a hand written thank you mattered, note cards would soar on wall street. It’s always been the “unspoken” key to success not only in job hiring, but in business per se. The reason, it all boils down to gratitude. Graditude is attitude, and no one without gratitude is ever really happy, and who wants to be around those folks?

    The bottom line is this. Once you get their attention (short of a job at some high tech internet company where riding skateboards around the hallways at work is the norm and the CEO is 22 years old), it all comes down to gratitude. Companies want to hire people of integrity who feel like they just won lotto. And that is also the kind of company at which you will have your best chance of career success. Trust me, they are out there. Stay focused, get to know the company, and go for it.

    The one field that is ALWAYS hiring is of the allided health field, which of course, are 24/7 operations. Even if being a nurse isn’t your thing, consider the 1-2 year training programs in respiratory, laboratory assistence, xray, or Medical assistants who help out on the nursing units. Hospitals aren’t for everyone, but they do hire a lot and almost always have a good benefits. Most also will pay for college courses that can lead to future promotions.

    Hope this helps!

  8. Deacon Greg, my husband is one of those who are 50+ and have been unemployed for 3+ years.

    It’s unnervingly easy to understand where those interviewed in the story are coming from. I went from a homeschooling mom to being the family breadwinner at the very same company that parted ways with my husband.

    He’s been working for the last eight months as a temp at what used to be one of the best employers in our city, but who now use temps to make up 2/3 of their workforce. Prospects for true employment are truly dismal as the career field (IT) has evolved; the overwhelming majority working are temps assigned for a 1-2 year run.

    And Deacon Greg, guess what – he’s one of your brothers. Ordained to the permanent diaconate in 2002, treasuring his vocational call and marvelling at the mercies of God.

    I have a magnet at my workstation which reads, “Don’t fear tomorrow, God is already there.” Whatwe have lived through… what we have learned…

    Churchill was right: Never give up.

  9. To “Fresh Iced Tea”

    Have you husband take a look at church positions. . . local parish — Pastoral Associate” for just about anything. Lots of Diocese have salary scales which parishes have to abide by. It may not be as much as he made in the secular world, but it comes with some fascinating fringe benefits!

    I have been on the payroll of my local parish for many years; and I did not seek out that position — the pastor sought me out.

  10. As someone looking for employment, and with a good background (including a master’s degree) but not as impressive as leading men in combat as this gentleman has, this is so depressing. I am currently employed, and have been with my employer for almost 10 years, so I am hoping my being so will make me attractive, in spite of being 45.

    I have to disagree with Klaire on one issue, re: working one’s way up the ladder from the ground floor. With very rare exceptions, the only people I’ve seen do so are the ones who – oh, how to put this delicately? – work their way up their bosses’ lower G.I. tracts. The true worker bees are the ones left behind on the same ground floor on which they’ve entered. I’ve seen and experienced it in Corporate America and academia. My current employer in academia is miserable, but those desperate for a job think it’s impressive to for it…until they take whatever they’ve been offered at hire just to get in the door and realize after a year or two that where they are is where they are going to stay.

    Prospects for those over 50, especially men, are pretty dim. It took five years for the husband of a friend to find a oermanent, decent job after being laid off in 2005. He had military experience, a security clearance and great IT experience. He had temp jobs here and there, sent out countless resumes, had countless interviews, they went through all of their savings, retirement and loans and will probably never own a house again. He was lucky to find the job he has now, unlike so many others in the unemployment abyss.

    Momor above is right – there will be an explosion when those supporting family members unable to find work start losing their jobs.

  11. Prayers for the young veteran and people like him who need jobs.
    This post really hit home. My husband has been through the job wilderness of the last 25 years or so; if you are middle management you are “overhead” and have a target on your back when it comes time to have a reduction-in-force. The past ten years have been whatever part- time jobs and temp jobs he could get, after age 55 nothing more favorable was offered. Thank God my job has health insurance, or we would have really been in a bad way. Last month he turned 64 and decided to semi-retire and take early social security. Which meant he actually got a raise.
    Now I’d better quit messing around online and get ready for work, because I really, really, need to hold onto my job for another 6 years!

  12. The field of security either private or government is one area of employment I would recommend for the veteran discussed above. But there is no doubt, it is very tough out there. I was unemployed from between 2007 and 2008 and it was not easy (I turned 50 past December). I had to relocate from Texas to Boston as I was blessed enough to find a security related job with a decent salary up here in New England. It’s been very tough because all the relocation expenses (the company paid a big chunk, again am blessed). It scary to think that my job could be cut if things get worse, but pray to God and hope in Him.

    Seems that the American Dream is defunct and slowly turning into a nightmare for many because the expectation was that we would always do better than our parents. That is now history, our sons and daughters and even ourselves may not live to do better than our fathers.

    Let’s hope in God.

  13. I was among the unemployed in the 50 age range (and male) and yes, it is awful! My faith in God was the one thing that kept me hopeful, especially following denial after denial- “thanks, but no thanks”.

    Klaire, above, has it right. Study up, be polite, zero in on targeted companies, and onestep furtherer is I reworked my resume to highlight the abilities that fit their needs. I did that for each targeted job- reworded, bolded items, and specifically shown each employer how my past would help their future. I also avoided all computer applications…. I sent in only hard copy application/resume, as I found that computer programs will shove you off to the side without the hiring staff even seeing your information because you do not fit the program’s tight and specific guidelines. They collate information on word usage (you didn’t use the word “service” enough, you used a word that may have negative connotation unknowingly, and so on). All human feelings are removed, mathematical matrix replaces human intuition and feelings in this market. Circumvent the program by doing things the old fashioned way: on paper, in person, with manners, and a smile- all of which cannot be collated in mathematical terms.

    Please do forgive me if my thougths seem jumbled above, but jobs that I KNEW I was perfecly suited for never even replied to my online applications. It was a knife in the heart with each one. Then someone I know in a Human Resources department of a larger employer clued me in on the computer filters that remove anyone’s application due to length of unemployment, word usage and negative connotations, length on service with former employers, ad infinitum….. You have to circumvent it! You must if you want to work and are in the above demographic.

    Last week I landed a job, thanks be to God! I targeted the job, reworked my resume, wrote a very specific cover letter, shined my shoes, and delivered the application and resume personally. We are in a tough job market and the one thing we 50 year olds have over and above the younger groups is experience. Dress for every meeting professionally. I can tell you it makes a difference in impact. Other applicants showed up for the interview in jeans and tennies, I was the only one in blazer and dress shoes- even for a physical job (I am a chef)- dress up and SMILE! A smile and a joke can leave good lingering memory when staff talk about you after you leave.

    I pray for the unemployed. I ache for the broken hearted who have given up. I urge anyone in this market to pray~ scream at God if you have to~ but open your heart to Him, cry at His feet, sob your worries to Him. He is listening. He really is…. and will take in your pain and replace it with peace.

  14. Many manufacturing jobs have moved overseas. Look at the labels on almost anything we buy. Technical jobs are also moving overseas. How long can the middle class last in this country if we continue to send our jobs and money overseas? We can blame unions and our own greed, but we must also look at the trade practices of other countries.

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